Free (or nearly free) Web Resources that Will Transform Your Instruction

Yep, that’s what I’m calling the session that I’m presenting at the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference on Saturday Nov 1, 2013.  Pretty big claim, right?  I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of this, but I have been so overwhelmed with resources and information over the last three months that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share some of it with other teachers.  So, in no particular order, here are some of the web resources that I intend to share and how they have changed MY life for the better.

Resource: Math Twitter BlogoSphere (MTBoS) (

Cost: FREE

What is it:  “What the mathtwitterblogosphere is, ultimately, is a gaggle of math teachers who are unnaturally obsessed with teaching math. And over time, they’ve banded together on the interwebs and have unintentionally become a cohesive gaggle of obsessed math teachers who take pride in freely sharing the best math teaching ideas. If you want a sense of who the people are or what these people do, check out this website they created together.” (

Why I love it: Every time I read a math teaching blog or participate in a Twitter Mathchat or check out one of the collaborative projects created by MTBoS, I get new ideas that help me grow as a teacher.  Its impact on my teaching is profound and ongoing. It is the professional development I always wanted but never knew existed until a few months ago.

Resource: Exploring the Math Twitter Blogosphere (

Cost: FREE

What is it: “Explore the MTBoS is an 8-week series of challenges (“missions”) starting in early October that are designed to have you engage with different parts of the mathtwitterblogosphere. Before you get stressed out by the 8-week time frame, breathe. You do not have to participate in every week (though you don’t know how cool you would be to us if you did). Each week your mission will be to engage in one small task that will expose you to some part of this online math teacher world. As we said, if you can’t do a week here and there, that’s okay! This is a no-pressure situation. Do what you can, do what you’re interested in. By the end of the 8 weeks, you will at least have heard about a lot of the things out there… and if you’ve participated in each of the missions, you will have made some new math teacher friends, found some incredible teaching resources, and maybe even created some things that will be useful to other math teachers out there. The goal of the challenges is to help you find things (and do things) that will help you grow as a teacher. It’s that simple.” (

Why I love it: I’m still pretty new to the world of MTBoS.  There’s a lot to it.  It’s nice that these kind folks have broken it up into 8 challenges or lessons, because it can seem overwhelming at first. I’ve discovered several new things while completing some of these challenges.  It’s not to late to start.

Resource: Feedly (

Cost: FREE

What is it: Feedly is an RSS reader that I use to organize the blogs that I read.  An RSS reader gathers web content such as news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and video blogs in one location for easy viewing.  I used Google Reader for years until it died last July (RIP Google Reader) and then I switched to Feedly.  There are other free RSS Readers that perform the same function.  Feedly is just the one that I use and like.  Click here to learn more about what a reader is, why you should get one, and how to sign up for one.

Why I love it: I could not (and would not) read as many math teaching blogs as I do, without an RSS reader.  That would be a real shame because reading several good math blogs is like having 5-10 of the world’s best math teachers down the hall.  Through their blogs, these teachers let you peek inside their classrooms and they freely share with you their best ideas and best resources.  I highly recommend that you start following a few of the blogs suggested on the MTBoS homepage.  But you will want to use an RSS reader, like Feedly, to help you read them.  I don’t read every blog post that shows up in my reader.  Sometimes I just read the titles or summaries and mark them as ‘read’.


Cost: FREE

What is it: A web-based graphing calculator. “At Desmos, we imagine a world of universal math literacy, where no student thinks that math is too hard or too dull to pursue. We believe the key is learning by doing. When learning becomes a journey of exploration and discovery, anyone can understand – and enjoy! – math. To achieve this vision, we’ve started by building the next generation of the graphing calculator. Using our powerful and blazingly-fast math engine, the calculator can instantly plot any equation, from lines and parabolas up through derivatives and Fourier series. Data tables open up a world of curve-fitting and modeling. Sliders make it a breeze to demonstrate function transformations. As browser-based html5 technology, the graphing calculator works on any computer or tablet without requiring any downloads. It’s intuitive, beautiful math. And best of all: it’s completely free.” (

Why I love it:

  • Graphing equations of any form: Texas Instruments can only graph equations that start with y=.  Desmos will let you graph any equation you want: linear equations in standard form, circles, elipses.  You name it, Desmos can do it.
  • Setting up the Window: It’s EASY to set up the window – just zoom and drag.  My experience with hand-held calculators has shown that setting up a window is the toughest part for kids.  With Desmos, they don’t even have to think about it.
  • Graphing inequalities.
  • Sliders: When you type in an equation like y=mx+b and Desmos will let you create sliders for the slope and y-intercept.  This makes it so much easier for students to think about slope and y-intercept as properties that can be manipulated and to see how each of them affect the graph of a line.
  • Graphing points using a table:  I haven’t played with this much, but I’m planning on using it a TON when I get into the unit about bivariate data – students graph data in a table and then create a separate line of best fit.
  • Art examples: Students can click on artwork and it shows all of the equations used to create that graph.  Inspired by these, my 8th graders are creating their own artwork. Their biggest challenges, making circles and curved lines.  By looking at examples of other artwork, they’ve figured create circles, but they’re always centered at the origin.  Within a week or two, I’m betting that they’ll have figured out how to move the circles to any part of the graph they want.  Is that in my curriculum? Nope.  My students are just working on it for FUN!
  • Saving graphs: If you create an account, you can save graphs to use for examples.  When students save their graphs, they can submit them to you just by sending you the link.

Resource: Daily Desmos (

Cost: FREE

What is it: “Daily Desmos brings you two graphing challenges every weekday. A graph is given, and the challenge is to write equations that reproduce the graph. There’s a group of regular contributors who create the challenges for Monday through Thursday. On Fridays we post challenges that are submitted by our readership. We’d love to have you pose a challenge! When we launched Daily Desmos, we made up the rules for the challenges as we went. The discussion of what qualifies as Basic or Advanced actually came after our first few challenges. Also, Daily Desmos isn’t about introducing sophisticated, uncommon functions—like the gamma function or the hyperbolic secant—but clever or subtle uses and combinations of elementary functions. We try to stretch your thinking, not your knowledge base.” (

Why I love it: I use these as extension activities when my classes are in the computer lab.  Occasionally I assign them as well.  And I give one problem a week as extra credit.  The problem is posted on my website and students submit their response using a Google Form (


Cost: FREE

What is it: Pretty much what it says it is – a bunch of visual patterns.  The challenge is to figure out what step 43 would look like.

Why I love it: I start out the year teaching linearity through visual patterns.  My students get really good at them, so this just allows me to keep them practicing them throughout the year and also to challenge them to figure out some non-linear patterns.  I love that the website will tell them if their answer is correct or not.  I offer one pattern a week as extra credit on my website ( and students submit their answer using a Google form.  I also draw this pattern on my whiteboard so that students can work on it when they finish early.


Cost: FREE sample lessons.  Membership: Pay what you can (minimum $10/month)

What is it: Amazing math lessons for grades 4-12. “Each Mathalicious lesson contains information on which Common Core State Standards are covered in the lesson. The Common Core Mathematical Practice Standards are integrated throughout all Mathalicious lessons. Lessons address several standards so that you’re able to address more math in less time, and with better results. But Mathalicious isn’t just about learning math. It’s also about using math to understand how the world works. When students use Mathalicious lessons, they don’t just become better mathematicians; they become smarter, healthier and more informed citizens! Mathalicious lessons ask real questions in open-ended ways that require students to make sense of problems and empower students to develop their own strategies for solving them. Students must support and justify their own methods and conclusions, and evaluate the validity of others’ arguments. Lessons prompt students to model their findings in a variety of ways: numerically, graphically, algebraically and verbally. Using Mathalicious doesn’t require an all-day professional development. We know that teachers are busy, and incorporating Mathalicious lessons is easy. We provide teachers with everything they’ll need to teach the lesson successfully, including: Student Handout, Multimedia Presentation, Lesson Guide.” (

Why I love it: The lessons standards based, applicable, grabs students’ attention, have multiple entry points, and require problem-solving skills.  The student guides are well-designed and have a good flow – I couldn’t think of any necessary modifications.


Cost: FREE

What is it: “ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It also captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators. Better learning behaviors, smoother lessons and hassle-free data – and its free!”

Why I love it: It’s fun, it’s easy and kids like it.  For students in my elective, remedial Math Lab course, I grade them 100% on participation and I use Class Dojo to keep track of their points.


Cost: FREE

What is it: “Remind101 was built, in conjunction with educators, to solve communication obstacles between teachers, students and parents. Across all grade levels and institution types, Remind101 is a safe and simple communication solution to help teachers extend their classrooms. Teachers are busy. Our mission is to make tools that are simple to use, but highly effective. Signing up takes less than two minutes on the website, iPhone app, or Android app, and it only takes seconds for students or parents to join a class. Safety is a primary feature, teachers never see students/parents phone numbers, nor will students/parents see theirs. The connected classroom is rapidly evolving. Remind101 helps innovative teachers take advantage of technology in a way that frees up their time to focus on what they do best: teach.” (

Why I love it: It’s easy and fast and students and parents really like getting texts from me. I love that I can send them from my iPhone – it’s as easy as sending a text message. Students or parents can also sign up to receive reminders through email.  I also have a Remind101 widget on my website that shows all of the reminders that I have sent out (

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be.  Just choose one thing and try it out.  I’m sure I forgot several things.  If you know of some amazing free (or nearly free) web resources that I didn’t mention, feel free to leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear about them.  Thanks!


1 thought on “Free (or nearly free) Web Resources that Will Transform Your Instruction

  1. Pingback: Virtual Filing Cabinets (Explore MTBoS Mission #6) | Ms Moore Math

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